A lab focusing on the impact of social systems on the health of individuals and communities


The Language of Care

A conversation with Rita Charon about the power of listening in medicine

Fields of Knowledge
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions



Lynn Hur, Aaron Levy

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web

Slought and the Health Ecologies Lab at the University of Pennsylvania are pleased to announce The Language of Care, a conversation with Dr. Rita Charon about the power of listening in medicine, on Monday, May 13, 2019 from 12-1:30pm at Slought. The event will begin with reflections on the future of narrative medicine as well as a first-person account of listening in medicine, followed by a moderated conversation and questions from the audience. This event is presented with the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. It is free to the public and lunch will be provided.

Anyone who has experienced or witnessed human suffering or illness has a story to tell. These stories often involve complex feelings of fear, loss, anxiety, and regret, as well as hopes, dreams, and aspirations. How can the arts and humanities help us acknowledge the universality of these kinds of narratives? How can we develop a greater capacity to respond to human vulnerability and the suffering of others? How does injury and trauma affect one's relationship to language, memory and society?

Join us as we engage Dr. Rita Charon of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, a key voice in the development of narrative medicine and the medical humanities, as we discuss how questions such as these can inform caregiving today. We will discuss the "ethnographic turn" in the arts and humanities and the work of writers, scholars and practitioners who are mapping a contemporary ethic and politics of care. Foregrounding themes of compassion, resilience, empathy, and wellbeing, we will reflect on the power of listening and the way in which writing can function therapeutically for the patient, caregiver, and provider.

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Rita Charon is a general internist and literary scholar at Columbia University who originated the field of narrative medicine. She is Professor of Medicine and founder and Executive Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia. She completed an M.D. at Harvard in 1978 and a Ph.D. in English at Columbia in 1999, concentrating on the works of Henry James. Her research focuses on the consequences of narrative medicine practice, reflective clinical practice, and health care team effectiveness.

She has published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, and others. She is the author of Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness (Oxford University Press, 2006) and co-author of Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine (Oxford University Press, 2017). She is co-editor of Stories Matter: The Role of Narrative in Medical Ethics (Routledge, 2002) and Psychoanalysis and Narrative Medicine (SUNY Press, 2008). She is working on a book about creativity and doubt in the sciences and the arts.

"Narrative medicine is not a parochial act, and it does not require that the physician and the patient belong to the same identity community. It is a fellowship of mortality. All of us are going to die. All of us, as humans, live within time, and that is what the humanities can bring to this process of taking care of people as they move toward their end, not to be macabre. I am not macabre. But I think all of us, to the best of our ability, must try to remember that this is temporary."

-- Rita Charon, Humanities, 2018

Related publications

Physician-Scholars Rita Charon and Jonathan M. Metzl envision a more socially informed and just practice of medicine.

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